Leong Yoon Pin



Leong Yoon Pin (b. 5 August 1932, Singapore1–d. 13 April 2011, Singapore2) was a composer, conductor and educator. Described as the doyen of Singapore composers, Leong was well known for his choral compositions, many of which were locally commissioned and performed by both amateur and professional choirs.3 His compositions were often infused with a local flavour. Leong was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1982.

Early life and education
Leong was born in British colonial Singapore.4 He received his primary education at the People’s Free School, Xin Dao Primary School and Xin Hua Primary School. Leong resumed his education after World War II, first at Dong Ling High School before proceeding to St Patrick’s School from 1946 to 1948.5


Born the third of seven children to an electrical goods dealer and housewife,6 Leong was a self-taught musician, learning to play the piano at 16 and the guitar at 17. He only undertook formal lessons when he was in his 20s, under the tutelage of Noreen Stokes, a renowned South African pianist based in Singapore.7

From 1951 to 1953, Leong studied at the Teachers’ Training College. Upon graduation, he taught music and other subjects in primary schools.8 In 1951, Leong started learning the bassoon with a scholarship by the Singapore Music Society.9 Around the mid-1950s, he received a teaching scholarship from the Education Department (now Ministry of Education) to study music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.10 After graduating in 1958, Leong returned to Singapore and was employed by the Teachers’ Training College as a music lecturer.11

Under a scholarship from the French government,12 Leong went to Paris to further his compositional studies with Nadia Boulanger from 1966 to 1967.13 Boulanger emphasised the importance of drawing from one’s own background when creating music, and this later became an inspiration for Leong to compose works infused with an Asian flavour.14

Almost a decade later in 1975, Leong won a British Council Commonwealth Fellowship and undertook postgraduate studies in music education at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.15

Musical achievements
Although he wore the many hats as a composer, educator and conductor, Leong was best known for his musical compositions. His first official work was the composition of the school anthem for the now-defunct Winstedt Primary School.16 His oeuvre included symphonies and tone poems such as Episodes in Journey to the West (1983),17 which was inspired by the Chinese folk tale Xi You Ji (Journey to the West),18 operas, a piano concerto, choral and many other instrumental works.19 His concert overture, Dayong Sampan (1980),20 based on a Malay folk tune, was the first work by a local composer to be performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.21 Leong was also very well known for his choral works such as Street Calls (1997),22 Dragon Dance (1988),23 Pedlars and the Soprano (1999),24 Like a Rapid Stream (1981)25 and Love Quatrains (1993).26

As a conductor, Leong founded and conducted the Rediffusion Youth Choir in 195327 and later the Metro Philharmonic Society in 1959.28 During the 1970s, he formed the Singapore City String Orchestra, and this, along with many similar instrumental groups established during that period, revitalised the orchestral music scene in Singapore.29 In 1977, Leong was appointed the first resident conductor of the Singapore National Orchestra formed under the National Theatre Trust.30 In 2000, he was appointed as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s first composer-in-residence.31

Leong was the first composer to have his compositions recorded on a compact disc as part of a National Arts Council’s programme that was launched in 1993 to keep a record of outstanding local works.32

Music education
Leong’s career path as an educator began when he enrolled in the Teachers’ Training College in 1951. After graduation, he held various positions at the college (replaced by the Institute of Education in 197333), first as a lecturer (1958–71; 1975–81) and then as head of the music department (1971–74; 1982–88).34 Besides his teaching positions, Leong was also an arts adviser to bodies such as the National Arts Council, National Institute of Education and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. He was continually involved in charting the course of local music and music education.35

Awards
For his contributions to Singapore music, Leong was honoured with the Cultural Medallion in 1982.36 He was also awarded the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in 2005, and the COMPASS (Composers & Authors Society of Singapore) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.37


Selected compositions/choral works
1955:
Story of Mulan38
1979: Giacoso Largamente39

1980: Overture: Dayong Sampan40
1981: Like a Rapid Stream41
1983: Episodes in Journey to the West42
1986: Nine Cantos43
1988: Dragon Dance
1990: Temasekian44
1993: Love Quatrains and Metamorphosis45
1997: Street Calls; Bunga Mawar46
1999: Pedlars and the Soprano; Feasting in the Woods47



Author
Eleanor A. L. Tan




References
1. Tan. S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3; Father of local composers. (2011, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Nanda, A. (2011, April 14). S’pore music pioneer dies at 79. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chew, D. (2006, December 27). Kampung notes. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Puroshothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural Medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 98. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
5. Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no.: 001490/04/01, p. 1.] . Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Kong, L. (1990, May 30). Songs for the folks. The Straits Times, p. 6; Tan, S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Father of local composers. (2011, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Tan, S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3; Chew, D. (2006, December 27). Kampung notes. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8 Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no.: 001490/04/01, p. 10]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
9. Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no.: 001490/04/01, p. 8]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

10. Abisheganaden, P. (2005). Notes across the years: Anecdotes from a musical life.Singapore: Unipress. p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 784.2092 ABI); Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no.: 001490/04/02, p. 13]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

11. Chew, D. (2006, December 27). Kampung notes. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; TributeSG. (n.d.). Leong Yoon Pin. Retrieved 2016, November 30 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/leong-yoon-pin
12. Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no. 001490/04/02, p. 20]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
13. Chew, D. (2006, December 27). Kampung notes. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tan, S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no. 001490/04/02, pp. 20–21]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
15. TributeSG. (n.d.). Leong Yoon Pin. Retrieved 2016, November 30 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/leong-yoon-pin; Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript of MP3 Recording no. 001490/04/01, pp. 1–10]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

16. Tan. S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times. p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
17. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
18. Kong, L. (1990, May 30). Songs for the folks. The Straits Times. p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Ting, C. S., Leong, Y. P., & Tan, B. (1991). Singapore. In H. Ryker (Ed.), New music in the Orient: Essays on composition in Asia since World War II (Vol. 2). Buren, Netherlands: Frits Knuf, p. 105. (Call no.: RSING 780.95 NEW)
20. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
21. Leong, W. K. (1993, October 4). Composer Leong’s CD a first. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Leong, Y. P. (1997). Street calls [Score]. Singapore: Pro Musica Enterprise. Retrieved from MusicSG website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music/
23. Leong, Y. P. (1988). Dragon Dance [Score]. Singapore: Pro Musica Enterprise. Retrieved from MusicSG website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music/

24. Leong, Y. P. (1999). Pedlars and the soprano [Score]. Singapore: Pro Music Enterprise. Retrieved 2016, December 28 from NUS Libraries website: http://linc.nus.edu.sg/record=b2527215
25. 《我愿意是急流及通俗合唱曲十首》 = Like a rapid stream and ten light choral works by Leong Yoon Pin [Album insert]. (1998). Singapore: Metro Philharmonic Society. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
26. Leong, Y. P. (1993). Love quatrains [Score]. Singapore: Pro Music Enterprise. Retrieved 2016, December 28 from NUS Libraries website: http://linc.nus.edu.sg/record=b2527208
27. Tan, S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Abisheganaden, P. (2005). Notes across the years: Anecdotes from a musical life. Singapore: Unipress, pp. 68–69. (Call no.: RSING 784.2092 ABI)
29. Ting, C. S., Leong, Y. P., & Tan, B. (1991). Singapore. In H. Ryker (Ed.), New music in the Orient: Essays on composition in Asia since World War II (Vol. 2). Buren, Netherlands: Frits Knuf, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING 780.95 NEW)
30. Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript MP3 Recording no. 001490/04/02, 16.]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
31. Ee, J. (2000, April 25). GK Goh chief pledges S$60,000 for SSO Scheme. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Leong, W. K. (1993, October 4). Composer Leong’s CD a first. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Ooi, T. (1974, August 20). Ministry objective to improve the quality of educationNew Nation, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, June 4). Oral history interview with Leong Yoon Pin [Transcript MP3 Recording no. 001490/04/02, pp. 14, 18]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
35. TributeSG. (n.d.). Leong Yoon Pin. Retrieved 2016, November 30 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/leong-yoon-pin
36. Leong, W. K. (1993, October 4). Composer Leong’s CD a first. The Straits Times. p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. TributeSG. (n.d.). Leong Yoon Pin. Retrieved 2016, November 30 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/leong-yoon-pin
38. Leong, Y. P. (1955). 《木兰诗》 = Story of Mulan [Score]. Singapore: Pro Musica Enterprise. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 782.430264 LRP)
39. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
40. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music

41. 《我愿意是急流及通俗合唱曲十首》 = Like a rapid stream and ten light choral works by Leong Yoon Pin [Album insert]. (1998). Singapore: Metro Philharmonic Society. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music

42. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music

43. Tan. S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music
45. Leong Yoon Pin: Symphonic works of Singapore [Album insert]. (1993). Singapore: National Arts Council. Retrieved from MusicSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music

46. Tan. S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Tan. S. E. (2001, May 17). Music to his years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Chew, G. (2000, July-August). Music in the making. Esplanade: The arts magazine, 28–29.

(Call no.: RSING 791.095957 E)

Kong, K. Y. (2010, August 20). Leong Yoon Pin (梁荣平): The shy composer. Retrieved 2016, November 30 from MusicSG website: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/music/

Phan, M. Y. (1994, February 9). Israeli conductor who asked for Singapore music. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Phoon, Y. T. (2002). Leong Yoon Pin. In K. W. Kwok, A. Mahuznan., & T. Sasitharan. (Eds.), Selves: The state of the arts in Singapore (pp. 204–205). Singapore: National Arts Council.

(Call no.: RSING q700.95957 SEL)



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Arts>>Music>>Classical music
Composers--Singapore--Biography
Liang, Rongping
Award winners